Open on a small, dark, dystopian town, dust floating in the mist-filled air. A teen girl—the “chosen one”—stands in the road with her hands on her hips. She is unmovable, brave but internally conflicted. Across from her stand two young men, one tall, steady and put together, the other ragged and brooding, his hair hanging in front of one eye. Her two love interests. Which will she choose? And how will she ever be able to save the world?
Cut to your bookshelf. Is it filled with teen fiction like this? They’re totally fun and immersive, but if you’re feeling the itch for something more unique and compelling, there are plenty of new, out-of-this world (some literally) speculative young adult novels that are imaginative, frightening and just the right amount of weird.
In Wilder Girls by Rory Power, a group of teen girls navigate the new rules at their boarding school after a strange illness that alters their genetics sees them quarantined on their school-island. A spooky atmosphere follows this book from beginning to end. Adult fans of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation will also find much to love in this feminist horror novel.
Speaking of Jeff Vandermeer, 2020 saw his young adult debut with A Peculiar Peril. When an orphaned teenager inherits his grandfather’s labyrinthine mansion, he discovers portals in the basement that lead to worlds full of dark magic, secret societies and an occultish dictator set to destroy Earth. Talking vegetables and animals, disembodied historical figures and a difficult-to-face destiny make this long novel a wild adventure.
If romance sparks your intrigue, The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala is a gorgeously written novel inspired by Indian mythology. On two sides of a long-running war, a soldier and an assassin sent to kill his military general uncle fall in love over the course of many months in a cat-and-mouse game.
These and the other teen books in the list below bring the spooky, strange and sinister into science fiction and fantasy to elevate your escapism and to open your eyes to the weird world of speculative fiction.
These eight teen books bring the spooky, strange and sinister into science fiction and fantasy to elevate your escapism and to open your eyes to the weird world of speculative fiction.